Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has instructed her aides to turn over to the Justice Department a personal email server that she used exclusively as Secretary of State — plus thumb drives which contain her work-related emails.
Here are some of the key questions about the email controversy.
WHAT KIND OF INVESTIGATION IS TAKING PLACE?
The FBI is conducting an investigation into the security of Hillary Clinton’s personal email server and the thumb drives that contain her work-related emails. The thumb drives were being kept by her lawyer, David Kendall, in a safe provided by the State Department.
This is not an investigation into Clinton herself but rather the security of her emails.
Questions about the security of the server and thumb drives come after an Inspector General found two classified emails among a sample of just 40 of her 30,000 plus work-related emails that should have been marked “top secret”. They contain code words indicating some of the information came from satellite intelligence.
The State Department disputes this claim.
“Department employees circulated these emails on unclassified systems in 2009 and 2011, and ultimately some were forwarded to Secretary Clinton,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the State Department, said Tuesday about the two emails. “They were not marked as classified.”
It is possible that emails get classified retroactively.
The Clinton campaign “pledged to cooperate with the government’s security inquiry” but maintains that her server was wiped clean after she turned over all 30,000 plus work-related emails to the State Department. Clinton has consistently vowed she never sent or received classified information.
“I am confident that I never sent or received any information that was classified at the time it was sent and received,” Clinton told reporters on July 25th.
WHY TURN OVER THE SERVER AND THUMBDRIVES NOW?
At a March press conference at the United Nations, Clinton said there was no need to turn over her personal server.
“The server contains personal communications from my husband and me, and I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and the server will remain private,” Clinton told reporters on March 11th of this year. “I think that the State Department will be able, over time, to release all of the records that were provided.”
So why has Clinton changed her mind?
Campaign officials say this is the first time the FBI has specifically asked that the server be turned over after questions about the security of the server and thumb drives have come up. Past requests for the server to be turned over to a third party arbiter have come from Republicans in Congress not from a government agency regarding security.
WHY USE A PRIVATE SERVER IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Clinton has maintained no wrongdoing in using a private email server while she was Secretary of State — saying she did so for “convenience” — and noting it was not against government policy.
“I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two,” she said in March. “Looking back, it would have been better if I’d simply used a second email account and carried a second phone, but at the time, this didn’t seem like an issue.”
Experts say the worst decision was using the private server rather than her government email in the first place.
“I don’t know what the convenience would be,” Shawn Henry, a retired executive assistant director of the FBI, said in an interview with NBC News. “The U.S. government has three different enclaves. One for top secret, one for secret and one for un-classified, and those servers are available — you can access them from anywhere that you are just like you can through a private email server. So, as it relates to convenience I don’t know what the inconvenience would be using the U.S. government servers.”
WHAT IMPACT WILL THESE ONGOING EMAIL QUESTIONS HAVE ON THE CAMPAIGN?
In somewhat of an unprecedented move Wednesday, Clinton’s campaign tried to reassure supporters with all the questions flying about her emails. In an extensive question and answer type document, Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign’s director of communications, reiterated that “Hillary didn’t send any classified materials over email” and said “To be clear: There is absolutely no criminal inquiry into Hillary’s email or email server.”
But with the FBI investigation just getting underway – and Clinton scheduled to testify before the House Benghazi Committee October 22nd – questions about her personal server will continue to follow her on the campaign trail.
What is unclear is if these latest revelations will hurt Clinton in the polls. A July 2015 Quinnipiac poll found that 57% of voters say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy.